Universities working hard not to lose academic year

Several universities are expected to reopen today after being shut down during protests.

FILE: Wits University Vice Chancellor Adam Habib sat on the floor with protesting students on 16 October, 2015. Picture: Gia Nicolaides/EWN

JOHANNESBURG/CAPE TOWN - Several universities are expected to reopen today after being shut down during protests.

But students at some institutions say they will continue to demonstrate, including at the University of Cape Town (UCT), where the institution will remain closed because of protests over outsourcing.

Exam locations across campus will be empty today after university management resolved to postpone final exams due to ongoing protests.

Protests against proposed tuition hikes and against the outsourcing of service staff began at UCT last week, with several students being arrested after they occupied the university's main administration building.

Although Zuma announced there would be no fee increases for 2016, a handful of defiant students again began protesting on UCT's lower campus on Sunday night.

University staff received confirmation on Sunday that the institution would be closed today.


Wits University Vice-Chancellor Adam Habib says while he's concerned that students will jeopardise the academic future of many if they continue protests, the academic year is not at risk of being lost just yet.

Students are expected to reconvene at Senate House this morning to re-strategise and discuss a way forward after indicating to the university that their protests would continue.

Students say they want all demands met, particularly over the outsourcing of staff at the university, adding that one demand is not enough.

This is despite an announcement by President Jacob Zuma on Friday that fees wouldn't increase next year.

WATCH: The day fees 'fell'

The president was speaking at the Union Buildings after a meeting with university heads and student leaders.

Students marched on the Union Buildings on Friday as part of the #FeesMustFall movement.

Habib has encouraged students to allow exams to go ahead unhampered.

"I am really worried about the academic programme. I did say that I was disappointed at that yesterday. I hope they reconsider. It is absolutely crucial that we do not lose this academic year, and we're working all out to ensure that the academic and examination programme is rescued."

Habib says the university's senate will meet today to discuss how to rescue this year's academic programme.

He says students should engage with management and allow exams to go ahead.

The Wits Senate is the highest academic decision making body in the university and will meet today to assess the impact of the last two weeks of protests.

Habib says the senate will make a decision on when exams will be written.

"I do not believe we're at a point where we will lose this year. But obviously that does require us to return to classes and to resume the academic programme as soon as possible."

He says while students' concerns over the outsourcing of staff at the university are legitimate, management cannot immediately address these concerns.

"The university is limited within the room of manoeuvre it has and we have to be mindful of the sustainability of the institution."

Habib says while he's concerned about the getting the academic programme back on track, the year is not lost and a solution will be found.

Lectures will remain suspended today.


Social Development Minister and African National Congress Women's League President Bathabile Dlamini says student leaders at forefront of the Fees Must Fall campaign acted in a disciplined manner and she is proud that many were woman leaders.

Woman have been at the forefront of the campaign at Wits University, with incoming SRC president Nompendulo Mkhatshwa and outgoing SRC president Shaeera Kalla seen at the front of negotiations.

They were among those who marched on the Union Buildings, demanding that high tertiary education fees be scrapped.

Dlamini says these women show true leadership and have impressed her.

"We are proud of that. They led the process in a very disciplined way and no one is going to remove the fact that whole process was led by young women."

WATCH: Police stop student protesters outside CT airport


Many of the students condemned the chaos that followed the march, which saw police using tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades to disperse angry protesters who damaged property.

WATCH: #FeesMustFall: Aerial view of Union Building chaos


A number of universities say they will have to cut crucial projects to make up for the shortfall in funds after Zuma's announcement that tuition fees would not increase in 2016.

The University of Johannesburg (UJ)'s Vice-Chancellor Ihron Rensburg says his university alone now has to fill a R200 million gap next year.

He says they have to cut crucial projects.

"We don't have an alternative. Otherwise critical parts of the academic project is going to have to be shut down."

Rhodes University Vice-Chancellor Sizwe Mabizela says his institution is already struggling with funds.

"We'll have to look at how we re-prioritise our budget, so that at least for 2016, we are able to provide the essential aspects of our academic project."

Mabizela says with electricity going up and overseas journal prescriptions becoming more expensive due to the poor exchange rate, it will be extremely difficult for universities to find the necessary funds."

WATCH: London students show solidarity with #FeesMustFall